WE ARE X
I.V. Hametsu ni mukatte
Tokyo Dome 3 days 2008
Night of Destruction – Part 1
March 28th starts early for Tomomi and me. We’ve gone to Asakusa, where we meet several other friends – both Japanese and foreigners, who’ve come to Tokyo especially for this occasion – for another visit with Kannon-sama, the Goddess of Mercy, to whisper our wishes for good luck into her ear again.
To once more startle fellow visitors, as Tomomi and I already did once earlier this year, with the rather loud rattle of coins descending into the offer box, 101 5 yen coins that are commonly believed to bring good luck.
We’d already received weird glances there when we were lining up before the stairs leading up to the temple, making the X sign for a memorial picture.
Though, I can’t say I was really surprised about the looks; the Kannon temple in Asakusa isn’t exactly a spot where one would expect to find Jrock fans. I saw one guy giving us a thumbs-up sign, though, which made me smile.
Inside the hall, feeling the coins’ weight in my hand while waiting for Tomomi to get ready to take a video just for ourselves, as she likes to do, I can’t help but remember the last two times I was here.
On January 20th, earlier this year, together with Tomomi, in the morning before YOSHIKI‘s press conference in Shibuya and our brief interview with him later in the day and the evening Shibuya Tower Records all members Talk Live.
Before that, last year, alone early in the morning of October 22nd, before heading out to Odaiba to meet Tomomi for our first report on X JAPAN. For the PV shooting at the Odaiba Aqua City roof top, that felt like my personal birthday present private live performance.
My thoughts drift back further, to November 2006, when there were the first rumors about the X JAPAN reunion, based on comments from TOSHI, who most people had given up on for good.
Then confirmation in his "The New Beginning" MySpace blog last spring… Everything that happened between then and now.
Even now, it’s almost impossible to believe that the lives really will happen. Tonight, tomorrow, the day after. Tokyo Dome 3 Days again, as I’d said I wanted when YOSHIKI announced his plans for Tokyo “next spring” in Odaiba. Even despite the fact that I have my invitation card from X JAPAN Project in my purse.
The sound of the coins falling, after Tomomi gives me the nod to let go, brings me back to the present as well. And as our business at Asakusa is finished with that, we head back to the subway station to make our way to Korakuen, the station at the amusement park that gave it it’s name next to Tokyo Dome, where we are supposed to check in with the U.S. JRR team and then meet some more people later.
Arriving early, we are greeted by the sounds of rehearsal inside Tokyo Dome, of "Art of Life," and we listen to that while we make our way to the will call tent. We actually make it there before it gets totally mobbed with foreign fans getting their tickets – when we check again around 2 P.M., the line there is so long there isn’t even a chance to wave at the people manning the tent and say "Gokurousama" for their efforts before we have to go off again.
With JRR’s U.S. staff busy, Tomomi and I take the chance to wander around a bit, and in the end get quite caught up in admiring a large number of very beautiful cosplayers. Especially outstanding are a mother with her very young daughter in identical YOSHIKI blue "Celebration" outfits complete with tiaras, one very beautiful TAIJI and several amazing TOSHIs. Blue, white, red and black YOSHIKIs abound and so do any number of HIDEs, in all the various outfits he used to wear at the different stages of X and his solo work. As a great many other fans do so as well, we ask some of them to let us take their picture with us, to which they all graciously agree.
Finally it’s nearing 5 P.M., the time the press reception opens and as we’ve been advised in the last mail from the organizers, we proceed to that at the earliest opportunity, to avoid the expected crowding as everybody arrives. Though then, I guess because everybody received the same email with that caution, it’s quite crowded already when we arrive at 17:01.
Staff is plenty and competent though, so we don’t even have all that much time to admire the dozens and dozens of congratulatory flower arrangements spread out behind the reception desks before we have our invitation letters checked and get the holders for our cards, with a bright red "X" on the black back side, on a strap to be put around one’s neck, and the tickets for our seats.
And then, we’re told that, "we profoundly apologize for the delay, but unfortunately the Dome isn’t open yet, as some last moment problems need to be fixed." That made me want to laugh right then and there – I didn’t, though I admit I did so later, once we were away from the official reception area – because pretty much the first thing Tomomi and I said after meeting in the morning was, "do you think they’ll start on time?" With our agreement being, "probably not." This is, again, X after all.
That "that’s just X" also seems to be the consensus among the waiting fans, by now orderly assembled in long, long lines snaking around Tokyo Dome, well into the residential neighborhoods close to it, as there are more amused comments and chuckles than exasperated complaints. Towards the end of the wait, when the possibility of rain that’s been predicted in the weather forecast actually manifests in the form of a slight drizzle, there are even here and there groups of fans who spontaneously break out into "Endless Rain."
Before that can spread generally and be taken up by everybody – I wonder now, what that would have sounded like, over 50,000 fans outside Tokyo Dome singing that in chorus – the doors finally open, and individuals and groups pour inside the venue. Some of the groups before entering are doing a final round of psyching up, screaming their favourite phrases, locked in circles, arms around each others shoulders, once again, as they did earlier in the afternoon already, just before the supposed opening time of the Dome.
We ourselves make our way inside as well, all the way down to the arena, to find our own places among a large number of other media and music and entertainment business people. There we find we have to settle for another longish wait, while pieces from YOSHIKI‘s "YOSHIKI Selection," a compilation of his favourite classic performances, are played over the sound system – which after a while makes me comment to Tomomi that I thought I was going to a rock concert, not a classical recital – as a background for every other minute apologies for keeping the audience waiting.
Well, waiting is something old time X JAPAN fans are used to. (TOSHI MCing makes a comment in regards to that the next day, that really, really made me laugh. But more about that when I get to the "Night of Madness.”)
Eventually, the lights darken, though for what seems to be unbearably long minutes, harder to endure than all the ten years before the reunion announcement, harder than the months before the reunion was officially announced, the concert dates released, longer than the hours spent waiting today. There is only the dark and classical piano. The "Last Song." Somewhat surprisingly for me, as it hadn’t been listed on the set list as it had been provided to the press.
A dark that for what seems minutes-becoming-eternities is only interrupted by fans with light sticks making "X" signs, waving their mostly blue and red sticks, nothing yet happening on stage.
Then, almost six minutes after the lights darken, as a quick look at my cell phone display tells me, TOSHI finally starts to sing.
Surprisingly, too, a start of the concert that’s not at all as X JAPAN Tokyo performances used to be, "Introducing X JAPAN – JAPAN – JAPAN – JAPAN – JAPAN – JAPAN – JAPAN – …" endlessly echoing away after the member introductions.
Somehow, a continuation of the Last Live. Somehow, to me, hard to explain, but, an end to the Last Live. A period to conclude the sentence of the past. The period YOSHIKI said, in countless interviews during the previous summer, that he wanted to put to the past. Emphasized in this performance.
But, with the lives still to come, not just an end to the past, but a new beginning. "Shinsei no X" – newly reborn X – as TOSHI says later in the lives.
I can’t say why and I may be wrong, it’s just a feeling, but my feeling is that this time, only the second that X has performed this song, incompletely, this time, will also be the last, that they won’t ever play it again. Frankly, I wouldn’t be unhappy to never hear it again. It’s a song that should never have been written, as neither YOSHIKI nor TOSHI wanted to write and perform it.
It is, though, somehow fitting, and anyhow, I’m too glad to see them back on stage to complain about what the live started with, even if it may not sound that way.
TOSHI‘s voice, when he starts singing, is still from a dark stage.
Then, a single golden spot light centered on him slowly lights up, from below, showing only his silhouette.
Another light from behind that barely outlines, much less illuminates, a shadow playing the piano, black outline against white light, YOSHIKI.
Finally, the golden glow around TOSHI brightens enough to actually see him, see his face, on the huge screens above the stage, singing.
The end of it, I’m feeling like drowning in that long end note of TOSHI‘s voice…
Then, after the stage darkens before brightening again basked in blue, now happens what I’d expected earlier: the classical X JAPAN intro that ends in those ear and mind deafening echoes bouncing around Tokyo Dome, that this time introduces only the band but not the members individually.
Then, a flare of gold again that actually obscures all of the stage, followed by white flashes and green laser beams. It’s gold again as TOSHI, invisible in all the light, at the top of his voice, screams out his old "Iku zo!!!!!!!" – "Let’s go!!!!!!!" – and then finally the whole beloved pandemonium that is X breaks out.
It begins with the old standard first song of "Rusty Nail," causing smiles at the familiarity of it. The feeling that X really is back, more so than I had dared hope.
YOSHIKI going crazy on drums, while TOSHI struts – really, there is no other word for it, for that old-time, beloved "X owns the world and we know it – and we love you for loving us" saunter – down the central catwalk, to its end, where he strikes a pose that easily puts any Kabuki actor in "Mie" (posing for impressiveness) to shame as he starts singing, looming over people staring up.
PATA, where he always is. Really, in the best sense, he does remind me of a ship’s anchor, the spot that provides the stability for all around him. HEATH, doing his usual much beloved by the audience grasshopper act, moving to only heaven – and HEATH (does he?) – knows where.
HIDE is here as well, projected in the screens above along with the other members, and on a special screen on-stage that that’s amazingly and beautifully fitting, displaying him in footage from the past in his red latex suit incarnation. I’ve chastened people for going crazy over that one, for not seeing past that outfit, for not looking at the real person HIDEto Matsumoto was (as in "ohhhhhhh, I sooooooo LOVE that suit"), but I have to admit I love that particular outfit as well. For sure not just the outfit, though.
Happy HIDE, blowing kisses to the audience. Really, it feels as if he’s there. It’s hard to put in words, since I don’t believe in the supernatural (admittedly, that’s at odds with asking Kannon-sama for good luck; it makes me laugh at myself that I do while I do it), but it does feel as if HIDE really is there. Somehow. Don’t ask me how. But he’s there. Or maybe he feels so much there because he’s there in everybody’s minds and hearts, including my own.
Who’s even more "there" for me, not just physically, but vibrantly alive, as he has not always felt to me in the last years, is TOSHI. Who was, for those who kept track, never as unaccessible as YOSHIKI was for way too many years, but still gone as "TOSHI of X."
Having been at Odaiba, I’d known his voice was back, capable as he’d always been to match YOSHIKI‘s extreme demands on it, and surpassing them. That voice for sure is back on stage now, but more so, so is TOSHI as I used to know him, as X JAPAN‘s vocal, all those years and years back, "loud and proud" as someone has coined it in English.
With his shouts of "kora" (no idea what a good English equivalent would be, "oi" comes to mind, but that’s Japanese, too) and "Tokyo Dome!!!" a bit after that.
The "aitakatta, Tokyo Dome" – "I wanted to meet you, Tokyo Dome," i.e., all the fans who’ve come – at the end of the song.
Not quite the rough exclamation of "Aitakatta <b>ze</b>" he used to shout in the old lives – no one actually had expected that and it makes me deliriously happy on the 29th and 30th that he proves expectations wrong – but still TOSHI shouting again like in the old days, another thing I had been not sure that he would do again.
Though it’s not exactly quite as he used to; there is just a little bit of a feeling of hesitation in it, of holding back. Maybe that’s why the "ze" of emphasis is missing then, at that first night. Nor is it actually TOSHI only. There is, here and there, in places, just a little bit, a tentative feeling to it. Not like holding back on purpose – not that they aren’t giving all they’ve got, as not doing so isn’t an option with X – but still a feeling of holding back. Maybe at that beginning, they were not sure yet themselves what they could do again, if the old magic would still be there.
Or maybe that feeling of slight insecurity was because of the technical issues that had gotten screwed up, that led to the much belated start of the concert. Or the pressure of expectations that have been heaped upon the event, by fans and media alike and I would guess by the members on themselves, not to give a performance that would disappoint. In the end it doesn’t, though. They come out on top. No one knows how they do it, but they always pull it off. As they do now.
Actually, I think it’s not only X that is not yet fully there at the start. That at the beginning the fans aren’t quiet there yet as well. People are definitely happy and excitement has increased all during the day, but in the audience, as well, at first there is not yet the full eXtasy of X lives. But that, too, comes back as the live goes on.
Written by Rika
Edited by Misha